Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Feel My Bicep is one of the fastest emerging music blogs on the internet. Formed by 5 old school friends from Belfast last year as a way of sharing their love for anything with a danceable beat; their posts range from classic and obscure Disco and Detroit techno to yacht rock gems and current house sensations.
With a Diaspora spread across the globe, I met up with London based contributor Drew who along with fellow member Matt, currently in Dubai, makes up the musical wing of the outfit.
When asked about the origins of the Feel My Bicep (the name itself a playful homage to the continued influence of gay culture on Disco) Drew, 22, explained how he had been enamoured with the sounds of Detroit and Berlin from an early age, being conditioned by Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space and years of weekend attendances at a small Belfast clubnight called The Shine.
-We’re five friends who all went to school in Belfast, and when we were 15 we went to this club called The Shine. We’d go see people Laurent Garnier, Richie Hawton, Green Velvet, Underground Resistance. The guys who run that club night have got a real Detroit influence, they loved the harder side of techno, I think we grew up with the harder side of Detroit techno . Like when Tiga was playing back there, he used to play pretty hard tunes, I used to love that back then.
It was a really good club night in a city that didn’t have much else. And they used to put on people like Josh Wink, we didn’t have a clue who he was at the time. I look back at some of the flyers and some of the line ups and you’ll see Richie Hawton in one room, then upstairs you’ve Green Velvet and Tiga back to back. It’s like shit, that kinda line up, you’ll never get that again. They kinda mixed up the fundamental guys, not a lot of clubs do that anymore. The Shine’s moved away from that, it’s a bit different now to get more of an audience inside. Back then it was really quit, they didn’t get big turnouts, but all my friends were really into it.
It’s really quite strange actually everyone in Bicep likes different music: there's Rory and James in Glascow, David in San Francisco at the minute and Matt who’s in Dubai, so we’re getting all this weird influenced music out there at the minute. With James he’s really into punk and post-punk and David he’s perhaps more band influenced and with me I like lots of proto-house and proto techno so it’s quite a good mix of things.
It is interesting, and it’s always being updated...
-Yeah it’s not a thing of just trying to update it, with other blogs the quality control wasn’t good, I don’t want to name names but it’s a couple that we know. But they don’t keep to it, and we listen to so much music, you know with a DJ, you’ll listen to this new set and pick out the songs you love, that essentially what we do constantly. If you look at my music and my influences it’s all singles.
Not a single album?
-I don’t download albums. I do have a few albums but not very many: Andres II, a couple of Moodyman albums, couple of Theo Parrish, couple of Stevie Wonder's. I don’t really listen to albums that much cause I get bored half way through. I can’t really remember the last album I enjoyed throughout. That album by Andres II is a pretty cool album, it’s very hip hop.
Do you spend a lot of money on Vinyl; do you use it to DJ with?
-I play on Serrato, but yeah I buy all the music I love on vinyl. I work just two minutes away from Phonica and BM in Soho that’s where I get most of my records from. Same with Piccadilly Records in Manchester I used to go there all the time, they‘ve got a really good selection. I got some really good Italo records quite cheaply the other day, it’s like Bicep’s guilty pleasure, Italo.
You say it's a guilty pleasure but it’s still a pleasure
-Oh no I love it, some songs are amazing, Italo’s hard to do well, and it’s really hard to replicate so that’s why you don’t here a lot of it now, but yeah I do love it, some people just can’t stand it.
It’s a really cool genre, we always say Minimal Techno is 99% shite, but that other 1% is amazing, and it’s true, same with Italo Disco. That 1% is outstanding.
Now receiving over 70,000 hits a month, Bicep have attracted a considerable international audience, ranging from label attention from around the globe, having their records mastered in New York to DJ sets on the continent and a two week tour of China at the end of April
-Yeah that’s the coolest thing about it, we didn’t realise what it would do when we started it last October. It wasn’t a published thing and we built up the archives. We had a really slow start. It’s really amazing though I remember when it started, you’d get people commenting from Lisbon and Sweden. Now it’s got to a point where you can make a real connection with people.
With DJing, do you have to go see a DJ to be inspired by them or can you hear bits in mixes or is it a mixture of things?
-I keep thinking about that myself recently, because I don’t understand this whole culture, at the minute of, of booking producers to. Like they’ll book Aeroplane off the fact that they’re good producers, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to them being good live.
There’s some natural born DJs, like Erol Alkan is a natural born DJ, he was mixing House and Indie records when he was 18. There’s a big difference between a DJ and a good producer.
Who would you say are your favourite DJs?
Omar S definitely, I spent £40 on one of his records ‘Do Me Right’
Man, it’s not even a good cover
-I like it, that 90’s cheesy house style, I checked the record prices today and it’s going for £25.
In terms of producers Gavin Russom from Black Meteoric Star, Theo Parrish is a really cool DJ, cause he’s got amazing taste and again DJ wise it’s Moodyman, it’s odd I like songs by some guys but not all. Omar S is one that I like most of his stuff
The other component of Bicep is their original output as musicians and producers. With 12” releases on labels Ghost Town and Traveller, Andy and Matt make tracks as a creative output for their diverse influences, much like the blog they can come out with driving techno inspired tracks or take on a James Brown sample just as easily.
What’s your approach to making music, what do you use, what are you inspired by?
-Most of our stuff we want to edit to play live, we don’t necessarily want to release everything we edit, because the edit culture at the minute overwhelmed with people putting out shit edits. And there’s so much debate on it, I’m just open to any edit that takes a different turn on things. There’s so many good editors people Mark E, The Revenge, Floating Points. These people are good at twisting tunes and turning them into something completely different, almost like daft punk did back in the day. It’s a new wave of good stuff, but the other stuff is shit. So we’re at the stage where we wanna be doing something different, we’ve got 35 tunes that we edited, because we want to have our own take on it. But we’ve got this style, that’s really rigid, be want to make it more funky and stuff.
To explain our production first we’ll draw up an idea on things like Ableton, and then we’ll record everything live on analogue, we use analogue equipment for everything, we redo everything in analogue, most of the drums we’ll start off on MPC where we’ve got drum machines like Roland 909’s, just standard drum machines.
It’s a slow process because Matt, my main production partner is in Dubai. He’s really talented at making things blend and putting them together. He’s very meticulous; he’s a graphic designer by nature so the tiniest minutest parts are important to him.
It’s quite hard because we’re associated with the blog but we want to also create our own music, not specifically be taken serious for it but we want to makes tunes and spend time with them and think about the approach to them because we want everything on vinyl. We’ve got like 4 tunes for one EP (a vinyl Fine Art Records to be confirmed) and an edits EP (a commissioned vinyl by Untracked), it’s just such a slow process with Matt in Dubai, slight tweaks are just endless.
With the dance side of things covered, Drew mentioned he might have leave the Bicep name behind, a least for a while, for a more band influenced project
-In terms of influences it's pretty much Gavin Russom from the production side of things, kinda laid back, really simple. I'd love to get something going like that.
I think we’re gonna go under a different name for the Housier stuff we’re doing and keep Bicep more fun, because I think the last EP was a bit too serious. It was more to get the name out there I think, it’s gonna be more streamlined now. So we’ll have a name for the Housier stuff and edits, because we’ve got lots of Italo Disco and stuff that we want to put out and lots of really heavy arpeggiated stuff.
We’ve got so many tunes it's tough to know which ones are good, you’ll think you're good then you’ll listen to something like an amazing funk and think this is so weird and mine is just a straight up 4/4 Techno tune this is terrible. It’s trying to get that balance right
And that’s the thing about Feel My Bicep, and the impression I got from talking to Drew in general; the music they make and post isn’t done so in a pretentious way to impress or mark territory but for their love of dance music, any dance music and for others to discover and enjoy. Similarly to when DJing he says ‘it’s all about trying to educate and entertain... it’s more about getting their attention, I think that's the hardest thing about it’.